LONDON — Eight party leaders are headed into Britain’s most unpredictable election in decades on Thursday, which has brought several smaller parties to the fore because of a fragmentation of the vote. Here are they key players of the coming days, hoping to win the keys to No. 10 Downing St., the prime minister’s official residence: David Cameron, 48, Conservative Party (center-right) Accused of fighting a lackluster campaign, Prime Minister David Cameron has turned up the passion as polls have indicated no late swing in his favor.
His privileged background makes him the ��posh�� candidate, but he has told voters to look at his economic achievements instead of his background.
Cameron was educated at exclusive Eton College and Oxford University, where he was admitted to the Bullingdon Club �X a hard-drinking, socially exclusive student group. After becoming leader of the party at the age of 39 in 2005, he tried to ��detoxify�� the party brand by avoiding traditional right-wing issues like immigration and stressing a more liberal agenda. However, in the 2010 election, he failed to win an outright majority for the Conservative Party. Winning only 307 seats out of 650, Cameron was forced to welcome the Liberal Democrats into a coalition government, the first coalition since World War II. Ed Miliband, 45, Labour Party (center-left) Written off as a weird Westminster insider who became Labour Party leader only by knifing his brother, Ed Miliband is now seen as having more than a sporting chance of being Britain’s next prime minister. Despite his awkward demeanor and frequent setbacks, Miliband has retained an unerring self-confidence, which a growing number of people believe could propel him to the country’s top job. Perhaps most damaging for him, however, is the rift that Miliband created by taking on and beating his older brother David for the party leadership in 2010.